Ryan Epperson returns after an all-SLC season as a junior.
David Gibbs is entering his sixth season as SFA's defensive coordinator and also coaches the Lumberjack linebackers.
SFA has had one of the most productive defenses, and produced some of the nation's top talent during Gibbs' five years on campus. The Lumberjacks have ranked among the nation's top 25 in sacks every season under Gibbs, including three top-10 marks. SFA has also landed among the nation's top 20 in tackles for losses (TFLs) in each of the past four years, including the 2011 season when it led the nation in sacks and tackles for losses. The 'Jacks' rush defense has been ranked among the top 25 three times during that stretch, and SFA was 14th nationally in total defense during the 2011 season.
The players have reaped the benefits of Gibbs' tutelage during his time as coordinator. The Lumberjack defense has produced numerous All-Americans, including Willie Jefferson who was named 2012 CFPA Elite Defensive Performer, two conference defensive players of the year, and former linebacker Jabara Williams was drafted by the NFL. In addition to Williams' selection in the 2011 draft, Jefferson and corner Josh Aubrey signed NFL free agent contracts.
After a slow start to the 2011 season that saw SFA stumble to a 1-5 start, Gibbs made some changes and the Lumberjacks immediately became one of the more stingy units in the country. The 'Jacks had only 11 sacks through the first six games, but closed the season strong leading the nation in both sacks (4.4 pg) and tackles for losses (10.2 pg). Led by an intimidating defense, SFA won its final five games and produced the SLC Newcomer of the Year, Willie Jefferson. The Baylor transfer set school (4.5 sacks) and conference (5.0 sacks) records for sacks in a game.
As a team SFA closed out the 2011 campaign ranked among the nation's top 15 in total defense. The 'Jacks allowed their opponents fewer than 310 yards of offense per game, and also ranked among the nation's top 25 in rush defense (128.7 pg).
The Lumberjack defense was at the top of the conference in 2010 as well. SFA led the league in total defense during conference games surrendering less than 317 yards per game. Senior linebacker Jabara Williams and Kenneth Charles received numerous All-America honors, and Williams was once again named as a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award. The 2010 season also marked the second consecutive year that SFA had a player named league defensive player of the year (Tim Knicky and Jabara Williams).
In addition to the NFL selections, several athletes have received individual honors under Gibbs' guidance. A former All-American during his playing days, Gibbs has coached 37 all-conference selections, including 13 first-team honorees, 21 All-Americans, two SLC Defensive Players of the Year and two league newcomers of the year.
Gibbs came to SFA from Texas A&M-Commerce where he was the defensive coordinator for one of the top defensive units in the nation. The Lions finished 31st in the country in total defense, and 26th in run defense, while helping guide Commerce to its first LSC North Division title in school history. Gibbs' defense produced six first-team all-conference selections, including the conference defensive lineman of the year, and two all-region honorees.
Gibbs began his coaching career in 1989 as a student assistant at SFA, before being promoted to defensive tackle coach, where he served for the next six seasons. During his final five seasons, Gibbs also took on the role of recruiting coordinator and helped bring in some of the biggest names to wear the Lumberjack uniform.
During that time, SFA had five nationally ranked teams, including two top-five squads (1989 and 1995). The 'Jacks set a school record for wins (12 in 1989), recorded their highest finish in the NCAA Division I-AA poll (3rd in 1989), won an SLC title and advanced to the finals of the 1989 Division I-AA playoffs and the semifinals of the 1995 playoffs.
During his playing days, Gibbs was a member of one of the best defenses in school history. A four-year letterman, Gibbs wrapped up his collegiate career by earning first-team All-America honors.
Gibbs received two bachelor's degrees from SFA. He and his wife, Katy, have two sons, Benjamin and Harrison.